Part 4: A Proper Mystery
BGM: White Shadow
In that rose garden, Kinzo, Kanon, and Natsuhi could be seen...
"...Thank you very much. The weather just happened to be good this year."
"Thanks to your care, the garden is even more beautiful than usual. Good work."
"Thank you very much..."
"If today weren't so special... we might have been able to admire the roses while enjoying some black tea."
Kinzo shrugged. Today was the family conference. When it came to the other siblings' businesses, they hadn't heard anything good. On the contrary, those siblings probably planned to turn the conversation to the topic of Kinzo's remaining life, and hold a quiet feud over the inheritance.
"...Those people are quite unpleasant. By the way, what about Krauss? Is that debt repayment plan of his proceeding well?"
"It really does seem to be a realistic plan. However, the scale of the plan appears to be quite large, and it doesn't seem to be bearing fruit as well as he expected."
"If possible, I had hoped that something could be done before today's family conference."
"...Yes. My apologies."
How had she gotten up there? Well, it's pretty pointless to wonder about that sort of thing when you're dealing with a witch. Beatrice was casually sitting on the roof of the arbor, almost as though she had been basking in the sun.
"Hmph. I am already dead. Even evaporating would be no detriment."
"...We can't have that happen. Please, for the sake of the Ushiromiya family, lend us your strength just a little longer."
"Natsuhi. It seems that the boat with the relatives on it has left the harbor. It might be a good idea to end your walk soon."
"...Is that so? Thank you. Please return to the study, Father."
"Just great... A shame that I must go back when the weather is so perfect."
"Don't grumble, Kinzo. Right now, you are nothing more than a ghost that I gave life to. It'll be troublesome for both me and Natsuhi if you're scattered away by the toxin."
"Just be a good boy, shut yourself away in the study, and put a blanket over yourself or something. *cackle*cackle*!"
"Hmph. Just being given the chance to enjoy the roses even after death makes me extremely fortunate. I understand. I shall return to the study."
"But I would like some black tea. Kanon, tell Genji to take me some. Some Marco Polo would be nice today."
"Of course, Father. He can't say it in front of them, but my husband is already the Ushiromiya family head. And, I will do all I can to see that I don't embarrass him as his wife."
"...Compared to Krauss, who's had a stomach ache since this morning, you are so very composed, Natsuhi. My son is quite hopeless."
"My husband is talented in his own way. Supporting him where he's weak is my duty as his wife."
"Hmm. Give it your best. I will make sure to stay shut away so that I don't get in the way of this farce."
"Kanon. Go with Father to the study. And then have Genji serve some black tea."
"I'm not so senile that I need your help to stand up. Here I go..."
Refusing Kanon's attempt to lend him a hand, Kinzo rose from the flower bed he had been sitting on. The retired head left everything in Natsuhi's hands and returned to the study at a gentle pace...
"...You're looking well. You possess a sense of dignity similar to Kinzo's deceased wife."
"Yes. In the blink of an eye. I can just disappear, but if someone already dead such as Kinzo loses his form, he'll be blown away by the winds of the sun in a matter of minutes and disappear like garbage. You must take care."
"Yes. I understand."
"...You might have talent as a witch. The magic-resisting toxin has been building up in your system over the years, and yet you are still able to understand magic. If you and I had met during your youth, you might have become a powerful witch by now."
"I am Ushiromiya Krauss's wife, the head's wife. I would become even a witch or a demon to protect his honor. I am deeply grateful for the power of your magic. I wouldn't have been able to protect the honor of the Ushiromiya family without you."
"Let's discuss that at another time. I'd like to enjoy it with just the two of us women drinking tea."
"A friend of mine who went to Sri Lanka sent me some black tea with a wonderful rose fragrance."
"Hoh, you mean Dimbula. That isn't bad. Then you should also have patis on the side. You must serve me some as a reward if I manage to trick everyone for the whole upcoming family conference. It's a promise."
"Understood. I promise. Then, I'll see you later."
The witch made her body crumble into the rustling winds, became gold flower petals, and scattered into thin air. Natsuhi watched her go, then turned on her heels and headed for the mansion. After that, there was no one left in the rose garden...
Video: Genre Conventions
BGM: Organ Short #200 Million in C Minor
"...None at all. If you gotta pee, why don't you just go and do it...?"
"What a rude thing to say. Kinzo is already dead, right? But he's walking around and talking, isn't he? Doesn't that mean this is magic?!"
"Well, I doubt this move would work on you after all this time, Bern. But what about you, Battler?"
Isn't this weird? Don't you have to accept the existence of the magic that revived Kinzo? Hahhihhyahhahaaaah!"
"...If you're trying to imitate Beato, it's pissing me off, so stop it right now."
"*giggle*! Figured it out?! Then come on, how are you gonna answer, Battler? Kinzo was just out for a stro~ll. Why don't you do what you usually do and start holding your head, crying 'THIS DOESN'T MAKE ANY SENSE!!'...? C'mon, use that old 'IT'S ALL USELESS' catch phrase and let me hear your classic nonsensical counterargument. There's no way that a human who's supposed to be dead could be walking around, right? Is this all because of some unknown virus called the Rokkenjima Syndrome which causes mass delusions? Or do the scales of a mysterious form of butterfly that only lives on Rokkenjima happen to be hallucinogenic?! Or is it all because a mysterious secret organization called "Yamainu" made an as-of-yet undiscovered drug called Purupurupikopuyo which causes mass delusions?!! Let me hear tons of this wonderful crap,kyaaahahahaahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!"
"...Just shut up. This isn't even a problem."
"By acting like he doesn't exist, Aunt Natsuhi created a lie in an attempt to hide Grandfather's death and trick her way through the family conference.."
"Oh? It's Natsuhi's lie?! You can revive the dead by lying? Wouldn't that make it Natsuhi's magic?"
"This world is like a Braun tube before you've looked in it. It's the world of the cat box before you open it. As long as Aunt Natsuhi says that she took a walk with Grandfather, and as long as no one can confirm that that's a lie. It's possible to display 'Aunt Natsuhi taking a walk in the rose garden with Grandfather' as Natsuhi's reality. That means it's possible for Grandfather to appear."
*clap*, *clap*, *clap*... That extremely unflattering applause was coming from Bernkastel.
"Quiet. You shut up too."
"Wait a second, Battler. According to your theory, sure, it might really be possible for Kinzo to appear if Natsuhi's the only person there. If Natsuhi claims to have observed Kinzo in a world with no one except Natsuhi in it, then no one can deny it, right?"
"But Kanon was in the same place, and he was also looking at Kinzo, right? How would you explain that?"
"...That's no problem at all. Kanon-kun is a servant who works for the Ushiromiya family. Aunt Natsuhi probably ordered him to keep to her story so that she could hide Grandfather's death. This means that just like Aunt Natsuhi, Kanon can see Grandfather even though Grandfather isn't supposed to exist."
"...Too bad, Lambda. Battler isn't going to fall for that kind of child's play anymore."
"Seems so. Well, this is nothing more than an opening before the game. Like an aperitif before a meal."
"...An appetizer at a bar. Green tea at a sushi restaurant."
"Shut up. So we aren't gonna get anywhere unless I say it again in blue text?"
"Looks like it. Would you mind?"
In the games before now, Grandfather has always shut himself away in his study. We never met him directly. However, there were some people who spoke in a way that made it seem like he was locked up in his study in a bad mood, and who claimed to have met him only a short while ago. We blindly accepted that and believed that Grandfather was in the study. That's why it was possible for an illusion of Grandfather to exist in the study.
That's right, in the games before now, the only people who met Grandfather were Uncle Krauss, Aunt Natsuhi, and the servants.
"...You even showed me a scene at the beginning of this game of Aunt Natsuhi convincing Doctor Nanjo and the rest to cover up Grandfather's death. I'm not gonna fall for a cheap trick like that after all this time."
"...Not bad. But I was hoping for the unknown drug Purupurupikopuyo."
"There's no way he'd say something so ridiculous, right...? After all, supposing that such a thing exists would be just as bad as surrendering to the fantasy genre."
"...What do you mean, 4th commandment?"
"Knox's 4th. It is forbidden for unknown drugs or difficult to understand scientific devices to be used. It's a rule that these cannot be used for murder."
"What the hell... Unknown drug X and unknown scientific device X should be the best kinds of weapons to use when fighting against a witch..."
"...That's what I'm talking about. All of those violate the rules of a proper mystery. Supposing an unknown virus, an unknown drug, an unknown sickness, or an unknown XXX was used puts it totally in the fantasy genre. My condolences. If that was your theory, then it's 'game over' for you. *giggle*giggle*."
"...H, hey... What are you talking about...?"
"You think you've been fighting in direct opposition to Beato. But that's not actually true. You haven't been in direct opposition. You've been fighting along with her from a slightly different angle."
"All this playing detective you've done hasn't been fantasy vs mystery. It's only been fantasy vs anti-fantasy."
"...I don't have a clue what you're talking about. But there's one thing I do get. It sounds like you're saying there's something wrong with the way I've been fighting."
"...We are fighting to kill the fantasy known as the Illusion of the Witch. That means interpreting this tale as a proper mystery. In other words, from the very start, we have to ignore any and all elements that violate the taboos of the mystery genre."
"I, ignore, you say...?"
"For example, several closed room murders have occurred in the games before now, right?"
"At every single crime scene, you enthusiastically check with Beato to make sure there are no hidden doors, right? Then that leads to a flashy bunch of red truths weaving together all over the place, almost as though that itself is the battle. I call that a waste of time."
"So when trying to interpret everything as a proper mystery, the whole debate over whether there are hidden doors or not is lost from the beginning, see...? After all, there aren't any. As soon as you suspect that they might exist, then it's already 'game over' for you. In other words, the way you assume that you can't use reason just because it hasn't been proven that hidden doors don't exist at the crime scene makes you simply naive and a failure at the mystery genre. You've already lost once you start thinking that. You were trying to interpret everything within the bounds of the mystery genre, right...?"
"*cough*. That's how it is. Hidden doors must not exist at any of the crime scenes. That means anything you do to try and check whether they exist or not is a waste of time."
"...I think I know what you're talking about. I've heard about it somewhere. Is this like the ten basic rules for mystery novels or something?"
"Yeah, that's right. They're the ten wedges to drill into witches that Knox, the peerless archbishop of witch hunting, brandishes. Those are the true weapons with which to fight and defeat the fantasy known as the Illusion of the Witch head on."
"...Just like you, Bern. Bringing in such a troublesome weapon. That's the great rival of the fantasy genre."
"...So you deny the existence of hidden doors right from the start, without even investigating the crime scene... That sounds more like fantasy to me..."
"Lambda, who's in charge of the witch's side, is fantasy. I'm the one who's fighting her, mystery. What are you? You are barely anti-fantasy and do nothing but repeatedly dodge and deny fantasy. You're opposed to absolutely everything, but you can make no counter-proposals. You're like a politician from some country. *giggle*giggle*."
"Shut up. I didn't come here to speak gibberish with you two. Continue the story right now...!!"
"...Be quiet. That sleeping princess behind you looks like she's in pain, doesn't she?"
When he turned around, he saw Beato's living corpse resting in a chair... However, sweat glistened all over her body and it felt like she was breathing a little harder than normal. She looked as though she was suffering from a high fever.
BGM: Witch in Gold (cembalo)
"What do you mean, okay? You sure do say some strange things. Aren't you fighting to kill this girl?"
"We've rewound this 5th game for your benefit, but right now, Bern has done a good job cornering her opponent and is about to break through the Illusion of the Witch. Her existence has been almost completely denied. It's only natural that she's suffering."
"...Even now, you smashed the Illusion of the Witch by saying there was no way Kinzo exists. This is the proof that your attack reached Beato. This agony of hers."
...I tried to at least wipe away the sweat on Beato's forehead with a handkerchief. It's true I promised Beato that I'd let her die. But that was supposed to be, peacefully. I wasn't planning to make her suffer first. My goal isn't to make the sleeping Beato suffer like this before killing her...
As if they had seen right through to my complicated feelings, the two witches giggled together...
BGM: Moonlit Night
"It isn't my fault, it was just an unlucky coincidence, right?! He just happened to be in the corridor and heard... it was an accident, I tell you, an accident...!"
"Could you two give it a rest...? Just call it our bad luck this time and give it up. If you leave a man alone, his mood'll pop right back to normal."
"Hopefully Father's feelings weren't hurt so much that he writes up some strange will."
The relatives took a deep breath and fell into silence...
"Hey! You can't jump around either, Maria! What'll you do if Ange-chan falls?!"
"...Sorry to keep you waiting. The boat is ready."
"Alright, let's go. Won't get anywhere by complaining now."
"We eagerly await your return to this island."
Natsuhi was sitting on a bench in the rose garden, looking completely worn out. However, when she noticed that Kanon and Kumasawa were coming back, she immediately sat up straight, regaining the dignity of the head's wife.
"Yes. It departed just a minute ago."
"I see. Good job seeing them off. What is my husband doing?"
"He returned to his room a short while ago. He is resting."
Since the previous day, Krauss had been almost overwhelmed by anxiety over the thought that Kinzo's death might be discovered. When the family conference ended, his weariness must have suddenly gotten ahold of him. However, the way he had refused to let even a sliver of his true intentions slip out and the manner in which he had managed to act as though everything was normal showed that Krauss's nerve was nothing to sneeze at.
"...How was it? Did they seem to notice anything suspicious about Father...?"
"Nope. Eva-sama and the rest were having a big ruckus over how the Master overheard them talking about the inheritance. Right? Wasn't their panicking just priceless?"
"Yes. They were quite shaken up."
"But Kumasawa, you really are quite an actress. All that panic in the corridor made it seem like Father really was there."
"...Kumasawa-san is quite talented at that sort of thing."
"Oooh, come now, I don't deserve such praise. Hoh-hoh-hoh-hoh."
"*giggle* I always have to strictly tell Genji not to easily believe anything you say when you call in sick."
"Now that's just too harsh, Madam. Oh-hoh-hoh-hoh-hoh..."
"You really did a good job. Both of you, as well as Genji and Shannon, will get your pay for a month's worth of past vacation time, as well as five extra days, just as promised."
"This is a secret benefit. Talk with Genji when you collect your pay so that the other servants don't find out."
"Su~re, we understand. Right?"
"...Kumasawa-san. Your voice is too loud."
"Ooh, not good, not good, hoh-hoh-hoh."
"Good point. Let's leave it at that for the time being. We should all return to our regular duties. That's right, I've had Gohda prepare some special tea. Tell him to serve it."
And the black tea which had been carried all the way to the bench... was the Sri Lankan tea Dimbula that she had promised Beato, along with patis... And sitting on either side of this, staring at it curiously, the wife of the head and her witch could be seen.
Apparently Natsuhi, not realizing that it had a curry-like spicy flavor, had started choking after putting it in her mouth. To describe it in Japanese terms, it was like fried dumplings stuffed with mashed, curry-flavored potatoes. As a household dish, it would probably be pretty popular with the kids. However, it was something of a shock to Natsuhi, who expected that a treat to go with tea would be something sweet.
"Didn't you know? Dimbula always goes with this. Black tea always goes with cookies. Oh, but chocolate is good too. You must have sweet bean jelly with Japanese tea, although salted konbu also works. Chinese tea goes with Chinese dumplings. Though I like moon cakes too."
"...I'm surprised. You know a lot about culture, don't you?"
"Well, I haven't been living a thousand years for nothing. I've tried refined teas from all over the world. Perhaps you could call it a journey through the world of tea."
"That does seem like it would be a wonderful way to travel the world. Before today, I never knew that one could enjoy tea like this. I will treasure this experience."
"I cannot leave Rokkenjima. This is the only way I can travel. What about you? I'm sure you've elegantly traveled the world like any wealthy wife might."
"...Before Jessica was born, my husband took me to many countries. Before marrying, I never once traveled overseas, so each time was a fresh and new experience."
"...Hmph. Sounds like you were also born into a very rigid family."
"...It was strict, but they gave me a wonderful upbringing. It would be rude to my father and mother to call that rigid."
"That's a pretty eloquent way to call it rigid. *cackle*."
Krauss might have pitied Natsuhi. Or, he might have wanted to take her away from the rigid Ushiromiya family for a little bit and let her rest. Or, he might simply have wanted to take his wife around countries he knew well and show off everything he knew.
"Unlike Father, my husband likes countries in Asia. Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea, Thailand. I think we also went to Malaysia."
"*cackle*cackle*. That Krauss... was he trying to resist Kinzo's western obsession? But Asia is good too. The Japanese are strongly influenced by the west. When they think of foreign countries, only western ones come to mind. But the east exists as well."
"I myself knew a few things about the west, but I knew very little about the Orient... I seem to recall my husband making fun of me now and then during our travels."
Beato secretly peeked into Natsuhi's heart, which was grumbling that they had all been very tiring trips.
It looked like a small, round, gourd-like nut that had been smashed, with cucumber wedged in it. At a glance, it looked as though it would probably taste like pickles.
"I, I see. So I just bite it here...?"
As she tried to bite the one her husband was holding, he suddenly moved it away. It felt kind of embarrassing, like she was a fish who took the bait.
"Whoa, wait up. You have to eat it a certain way. Yes, you are supposed to bite it. Bite it. Chew it. But don't eat it."
"Huh? Even though you bite and chew it, you can't eat it?"
"Yes. Bite and chew. Don't eat. And don't drink the juice. It'll make your stomach hurt."
"I, I don't understand... Why would you eat something like that??"
"Think of it as something like gum. Chew it and enjoy the flavor. Then take the scraps you've bitten and the juice and spit it out into a paper cup like this."
Even her favorite handkerchief, which she had wiped Krauss's mouth with, had bright red marks on it. Something that's poisonous if eaten or drunk, and it makes the inside of your mouth so bright red, and having to spit something out after you've put it in your mouth... how indecent! Thinking this, Natsuhi adamantly refused Krauss's invitation.
"No way, no way, I'm fine, I'm fine...!"
"This is a cross-cultural experience. What's the point of traveling if we don't do things that can only be done here?"
Krauss kept chewing, ignoring the fact that even his lips were being covered with bright red.
"Father likes these too. He must have ordered some long ago, because he used to chew away at them on the mansion's terrace. Although it seems he's stopped ever since you came here. Look here, Father, the person you respect even more than me, used these all the time. Look, look, don't be shy and take some."
...During travel, Krauss had the innocence of a child. He didn't even conceal his jealousy of the respect Natsuhi normally gave Kinzo. Just being able to see that side of her husband made traveling all the way to another country worthwhile...
Krauss urged her even harder to bite it, but Natsuhi, undaunted, ran from place to place and finally yelled that he was being too pushy. Krauss was miffed the whole bus ride. What a child, to let something like this get him down, Natsuhi thought, astounded. Then, a native tour guide in the bus took out one of those areca nuts and started explaining about it. It had apparently been a beloved luxury item in these parts since ancient times, similar to tobacco. Just like Natsuhi had done, it was starting to become disliked by young people and was becoming obsolete. Furthermore, it was treated as a good luck charm in this area and known as a symbol for couples.
"So, you then leaned on your husband and held his hand, did you?!"
"What the heck, you and your husband share a pretty pure love, don't you?! Did you get all fired u~p? You know, like, that night♪ Kiiihihihihihihi!!"
Red-faced and avoiding Beato's eye, Natsuhi tried to hide her embarrassment by swallowing the patis whole, chewing with her cheeks puffed out like a blowfish. Beato said 'Yep, there's nothing better than this to go with tea' and nodded several times, a broad smile on her face...
"Well, it's the same for me. I can keep dying, but I just can't escape Rokkenjima. I'm also a bird in a cage."
"I don't know much about you, and I won't pry. However, I do see that you're under circumstances not to be trifled with."
"I have no desire to act like the chief prisoner here. Let's be friendly as fellow birds in this cage. I've taken a liking to you."
"Really? Thank you."
"The instructions and orders you gave the servants for this family conference were superb. You took everything from where Kinzo would be and when, what he did, and what he left behind. Then put it all together splendidly without any contradictions. That detailed written plan of yours had the same beauty as a high-level magic circle."
To make it look like Kinzo actually existed and was living life his own way, she had written his schedule for the day down to the finest detail and made the servants follow it to the letter. When did he meet who and where, and what did he leave them? When did he do what and where, and what changed? As a result, even though the relatives never saw Kinzo even once, they hadn't suspected in the slightest that he hadn't been there.
Eva and the rest truly believed that Kinzo had just happened to be walking through the hall when he heard them talking about the inheritance and went into a rage. Everything had gone just as Natsuhi's plan had predicted, down to the finest detail. And the cooperation by the servants had also worked down to the finest detail...
"We couldn't afford to have this secret known even in the worst case scenario. That's why I double-checked the plan thoroughly."
"Your willpower and attention to detail summoned success with certainty. As a witch, it seems that you're in Lady Lambdadelta's camp. At your current level, as soon as you become self-aware of that as magic, you will be worthy of calling yourself a witch apprentice."
"If you call something like that magic, then that would make Kumasawa the witch of feigned illnesses. She only calls us to say she's taking the day off because of her bad back on the busy days. Like every year's family conference."